Goshen County School District Discovers Challenges Of Contact Tracing

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By Alex Hargrave, Torrington Telegram

TORRINGTON — A Torrington High School student tested positive for COVID19 after reportedly showing symptoms. 

Goshen County School District No. 1 community members were notified of the district’s first case on Sunday night, and contact tracing is taking place, according to a text from the school district. 

GCSD Superintendent Ryan Kramer said Goshen County Public Health will work with the state in its contact tracing, and the district will provide them with information as necessary. Students, parents and district staff will continue to receive notifications of positive cases without specific identifying information. 

“Anytime we have a positive case, we’ll have it just at the school that they are located and that’ll be all the discerning information, because we don’t want to violate any HIPAA regulations,” Kramer said. 

However, young students present challenges in contact tracing, as “they are unable to effectively participate in contact tracing interviews, they cannot reliably determine who they have interacted with at school, and parents are not able to provide this information,” according to Wyoming Department of Health guidance on information disclosure in the event of a teacher, student or staff member testing positive.

In these cases, minimal student information will be released to the school’s principal and nurse to determine other students and staff who may have been exposed to the student and to direct sanitization efforts in order to better protect the health of students and staff, said Goshen County Public Health Emergency Response Coordinator Heather Saul.

Individuals deemed to have been in close contact with the student have been identified by public health and asked to isolate or quarantine and to take a  COVID-19 test.

“Close contact is if you’re less than six feet [apart] for longer than 15 minutes,” Saul said. “And even wearing a mask or not wearing a mask, they still consider that an exposure.” 

Saul said public health does not currently know how many community members have been asked to quarantine. 

Middle and high schools present more opportunity for community spread, as students move from classroom to classroom throughout the day and participate in extracurricular activities. 

“If the student was in practice or whatnot, [public health] contacted the coach and then they went from that way,” Saul said. 

According to Saul, GCPH is in the process of determining what percentage of positive cases in schools would require them to move from tier one to tiers two or three. 

Kramer said the county and state will determine if and when individual schools move tiers, but two factors are important in the decision. 

“There’s a certain threshold in regard to the positivity rate in schools, and also the positivity rate in the community,” Kramer said. 

“Everybody’s being contacted, those that we feel that have been exposed, so we’re on top of it and staying on top of it and we’re in communication with the school,” Saul said.

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